How To Check Malware On MacBook: 11 Ways

A computer virus or malware can cause tremendous losses to your computer. You might have sensitive or precious personal data. Moreover, certain viruses can lock you out of your machine. Even if you have been trying hard to avoid such scenarios, the daily checkups consume time.

We understand how troublesome it can be and that you want to bring your machine back to normal. But the different processes of doing so can take hours. Well, among these many approaches, some take less than a few minutes. 

Read more and learn how to check malware on Mac in less than 2 minutes.

how to check malware on mac

Virus on a Mac – Is it possible?

Yes, it is possible. Although Apple strives hard to create and distribute entirely secured machines. Yet, there is room for improvement against evolving malware. Per previous attacks on macOS, the hijacker groups target the data and software. Some are even targeting the system’s hardware. 

Here’s a glance at it:

  • Silver Sparrow: it uses the Installer JavaScript API available with macOS. It targets the M1 chips. 
  • GoSearch22/Pirri: This is the first adware in the history of Mac malware attacks. As the name suggests, it inserts unwanted ads.
  • TheifQuest: This popped up as ransomware malware in 2022. Yet, instead of asking for ransom, it steals data from your computers.
Run regular virus scans as malware can attack the Mac as well.

What is a Mac Virus?

Like other viruses, the Mac virus can also take the form of trojan horses, adware, worms, and malware. While the chances of getting trapped by one might be less, they do exist.

Symptoms that your Mac is infected

  1. Ads and Pop-ups
  2. Increased lag
  3. Security alerts
  4. Unwanted extensions
  5. Spam emails

Symptoms that your Mac is infected

Before proceeding to detect malware from Mac, you must check if it is infected. Here’s what the symptoms look like:

1. Ads and Pop-ups

These are the most significant and common giveaways of your Mac being in touch with a virus. You may be getting ads in apps or tools that are ad-free. Moreover, you may get pop-ups even if you are not browsing the internet. 

2. Increased lag

If your Mac is acting slow, then it is a good chance that it is infected. The reason is that the virus might run a process in the background. As a result, it consumes your machine’s resources, such as CPU, disk space, and memory. 

This leads to reduced availability of resources to run the necessary applications. Thus, the lag increases. You may also say that your Mac is slowing down.

3. Security alerts

Are you getting reminders to install the security updates without scanning your Mac? If yes, it might be due to malware on your system.

Install security updates and protect your Mac from malware

4. Unwanted extensions

Web browsers have become another medium to infect your computer with viruses. Thus, you might be dealing with unwanted extensions or a homepage you did not choose. This increases the chances of your browser is hijacked. 

5. Spam emails

Well, it may not be in your account. But some viruses are good enough to spam your ‘friend’s inboxes using your account. It could be your mailbox or even your social media accounts. 

If either is making an appearance on your system, consider it an alarm. You need to run the basic checks and confirm what is causing this behavior. 

Spam emails are a sign of malware using your Apple login and profile

How to check Malware on Mac

  1. Use inbuilt tools
  2. Check downloads
  3. Check extensions
  4. Check installed apps
  5. Check login items
  6. Use Activity Monitor
  7. Check CPU/memory usage
  8. Check disk access
  9. Check Suspected locations
  10. Check using a new profile
  11. Use 3rd party apps 

How to check Malware on Mac

We hope now you have the basic idea of malware and its symptoms around Mac OS. So, let’s get started with the ways to detect malware on your system.

1. Use inbuilt tools

As mentioned before, Apple has worked hard to provide the best security in Mac Os. Along with this, it has also offered in-built tools to secure the system. One such tool is XProtect. It is designed and developed by Apple for Mac users. 

Its job is to scan your machine and inform you of anything suspicious. Interestingly, it uses the digital signature of a virus from its dedicated database. Further, Apple itself maintains this database.

Although it is set to enable by default, you can always launch it yourself to run an immediate scan. It is capable of detecting and stopping known viruses on the machine.

Use inbuilt tools like Xprotect to protect Mac from malware

2. Check downloads

One of the common ways viruses make their way into your laptop is through downloads. Say you are downloading something in a zipped folder or did it in the past. Although, the compressed folder generally has the files you need. At times, it can be the source of unwanted infection.

So, here’s what you should do:

1. Open the downloads folder on your device.

2. Scroll from top to bottom and check if there are any files you no longer need or don’t recognize. Further, check if you have files with .dmg extensions.

3. If you have any such files, remove them right away. Or you can empty the entire downloads folder.

4. Now that the files have been re-located to Trash, take an extra step and clear the trash folder.

Check the downloads folder for unknown files to detect virus on macos

3. Check extensions

Web browsers are the means to access the internet on any Mac device. While you can use the default Safari browser, you can also use other browsers. This includes web crawlers such as Safari and Google Chrome. But the key lies in the extensions installed on each of these browsers. 

Thus, it is good to check the following in your browser settings:

1. The homepage settings

This could be the default search engine you’ve set on the browser of your choice. Or it can also be any URL. If the homepage URL is different from what you have chosen in the past, then it can be a case of browser hijacking.

2. The browser extensions

Extensions are additional tools that can help you achieve various tasks. Mostly, you choose which one to install and permit them. But at times, these extensions can get compromised by hijackers. 

Hence, you should always verify the currently installed browser extensions and their permissions. If you don’t recognize any, remove them at the earliest.

Check browser extensions to detect malware on your Mac

4. Check installed apps

Similar to extensions for web browsers, there are apps curated for your Mac and the world you do. While some of them are pre-installed, you can always install new and trusted ones. But what if your system has apps you don’t remember installing? 

Follow the steps below to confirm this scenario:

1. Open the Finder on your device and open the Applications folder.

2. Check carefully for every listed app. Then, uninstall/delete the ones you don’t recognize.

3. Next, go to the Trash folder and empty that.

Check all installed apps for any signs of virus on your Mac

5. Check login items

There might be log-in apps on your Mac that need you to log in using your Apple id or account. These apps start using your account as soon as you power your machine. Hence, certain malware items use this as an opportunity to access and use your device and your account. 

If you wish to remove these unwanted login items, follow the below steps:

  1. Open the Apple menu on your system and go to System preferences.
  2. Now, navigate to the User and Groups section and open the Login items tab. A new screen will list all the apps using your login credentials.
  3. Next, uncheck the apps you don’t want to be accessing your account anymore. They could be the root of the virus on your machine.
Check login items list and detect any malware on your Mac

6. Use Activity Monitor

An activity monitor is an application that lets you view all the running processes. It also shows the memory and disk space usage. So, here’s how you can use it to check malware on Mac:

  1. Go to Applications on the machine and open Utilities.
  2. Under this tab, open the Activity Monitor and check the list of running applications.
  3. Specifically, look for apps that are causing extreme CPU usage. Or are they taking huge chunks of memory to run?
  4. Now, please take note of these applications and close them.

Pro tip: Open the Finder tool and remove all the applications you noted in the previous step. So, you are not only stopping them but removing them as well. Lastly, don’t forget to empty the trash.

Use Activity monitor to looks for high resource consuming apps as they can be viruses running in the background

7. Check CPU/memory usage.

As we skimmed over the memory usage tab in the previous section, let’s better understand the same. 

  1. Follow this path to reach the memory/ CPU tab: Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor > CPU usage tab
  2. Check for all apps consuming a high CPU percentage in this list. Alongside, check if you are familiar with the app or not.  Tip: to avoid termination of critical background processes, check for the app or process name on the internet. This will help you identify the culprit effectively. 
  3. Next, tap the memory tab and check for the apps showing considerable memory usage. 
  4. Stop the ones you find suspicious or remove them after verification.

While this is an effective method, you might also want to check out the next one for disk access. 

Check CPU usage to check for virus on Mac

8. Check disk access 

Disk access means the actual space consumed or available on your hard disk. As you install more applications, more disk storage gets consumed. Let’s check how can this state is if there is malware on your macOS.

  1. Navigate using this path to open the disk section’s access: System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Full Disk access.
  2. Now, a part of your screen should get filled with disk usage statistics. You should be able to check the permissions granted to the applications related to the device’s storage space. 
  3. Once again, use the power of the internet to check the malicious pieces. If needed, remove them permanently. 
Check Disk access and usage to check for virus on Mac

9. Check Suspected locations

With this, you are now aware of the primary locations for locating the malware. But there might be some other spaces preferred by these troublesome programs. 

Here’s how you can access them:

  1. Open the Library folder using this: Open Finder and then use keyboard shortcut >Command + Shift + G.
  2. Search for Library in this run window and open the search results. 
  3. Try to locate folders with the names, LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents. Check their contents individually and remove the ones you don’t trust.
Check library folder to check for virus on Mac

10. Check using a new profile.

Creating a new profile is a quick solution if certain apps target your profile. You can use the steps below to create one:

  1. Open Apple Menu and head to System preferences. 
  2. Navigate to the users and groups section and unlock the page.
  3. Click the ‘+’ button and select the type of user to create.
  4. Select a username and a password and click create.
Create new profile to check if your malware effects your profile or the system

11. Use 3rd party apps 

Many third-party apps claim to offer real-time protection against malware for macOS users. You might find some of them in the Apple store. While the other few can come as browser extensions. 

Use third-party apps to detect malware on Mac
Use third-party apps to detect malware on Mac.

What to do if Mac is virus-infected?

If a virus infects your Mac, here are two quick resolution methods.

  1. Rollback

The chances are that you’ve automated device backups or have taken them regularly. Then using the recent backup is one of the best ways. 

Apple has termed its approach as rollback. It is created to the issues of the machine crashing or getting rid of viruses. 

  1. Factory reset

You can resort to a factory reset if you can’t use the rollback functionality. The only drawback is that you’ll lose all your details and data on the machine. 


How Do I Clean My Mac Of Viruses?

You can use inbuilt features like rollback and factory reset to clean your Mac of malware in minutes.

Does Apple Mac Need Antivirus?

Yes, every OS needs an antivirus. The reason is that even scammers are improving their security techniques.

How To Check Malware On Mac?

You can use the activity monitor and check installed apps, memory, or CPU usage, among the many ways to check malware on Mac.

How Do I Scan For Viruses On A Mac?

You can use the inbuilt scanning apps or reliable third-party apps to run a scan on your system.